Menlo Park's City Council will consider whether to adopt a "pension reform" initiative circulated by Menlo Park residents at its meeting Tuesday, May 18. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the council chambers, located between Alma and Laurel streets in the Civic Center complex.
The City Council could simply adopt the measure, meaning that it wouldn't go to a vote. It could also certify the petition, and place the item on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Advocates of the initiative have asked supporters to turn out for the council meeting, in the hopes of convincing the council to adopt the initiative.
The initiative would create a "two-tier" pension system for non-police city employees, with new employees receiving pension payments at a lower rate than current employees, who can retire at 55 with a maximum of 81 percent of their highest annual salary for life.
The council has already signaled its attempt to move to a "two-tier" system, but the voter initiative differs in two important ways. The initiative would require a citywide vote for any future pension benefit "enhancement," and would also prevent benefit increases from being applied retroactively to current employees.
"Citizens, who ultimately pay the bill, need to weigh in on pension increases—and have an open and fair discussion before such increases are proposed again," organizers of the initiative wrote in an e-mail to their supporters, referring to a 2007 decision by the council to retroactively increase retirement benefits for all non-police city employees.
Several council members have said they don't like the idea of the council being hamstrung from increasing pension benefits in the future.
"I understand the concern a lot of people have, but I think the system works right now," Mayor Rich Cline said in an interview, adding that the city should have the flexibility to respond to market conditions. The initiative "would not be catastrophic, but it definitely does tie our hands a little bit," he said.
Proponents of the initiative collected 3,119 signatures, about 90 percent of which the county found to be valid in a random sample, according to City Clerk Margaret Roberts.